The Importance of Testosterone, Sex Drive, and How to Preserve Both
By John Romaniello
There’s a problem that men facing across the world—a problem that few people are talking about, but a great many are experiencing. This problem needs a solution, but more than anything, it requires awareness. The problem, very simply, is that men are dying; at least, metaphorically. Their manhood is dying.
Men are less manly. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. If you want to be a little more scientific and a little less dramatic about it, testosterone levels are dropping—rapidly. And not just in older men; whereas decades ago, this was thought only to affect men in their late 30’s and beyond, it’s now beginning to affect men as young as 22. It’s so bad that researchers from Massachusetts found that the average man’s testosterone (not just older men) has dropped 22% in the last 20 years, and that one out of every four men has below average testosterone. If those facts don’t scare you, if the fact that it’s very possible that you’re suffering from low T doesn’t scare you, then you may not know all of the devastating effects this condition can have.
To help explain why this issue is so important, and help illustrate just how impactful it can be, I’d like to tell you a story—and a very personal story at that. It’s the story of how I lost an important part of myself, and eventually got it back. It’s a story about how I had work around a common medical condition, and take matters into my own hands to solve it. It’s story about how I lost one of the defining characteristics of my masculinity, and about my journey to reclaim it. And this is the first time I’m sharing it publicly.
Despite all the content I’ve written and all of the articles I’ve published, one of the things I’ve never really discussed is how, at 25 years old, in the prime of my youth, I personally struggled with low testosterone—and the way it manifested itself was with low sex drive. Today, I’d like to share the story of how I fixed it; and how in my journey to do so, discovered how epidemic this problem truly was—how my passion for this issue led me to write a book about it. During the course of this story, you’ll learn how this devastating issue might be affecting you; how it’s potentially responsible for lack of energy, or depression, or the nagging feeling that you’re aging faster a bit too quickly. And, of course, you’ll learn what you can do about it.
Let’s Begin at the Beginning
I was 25 years old and had spent the majority of my adolescent and young adult life as a very sexual being. Like most young guys, to an extent, I defined myself by my aspects of sexuality—my virility, desirability, and performance all factored into my assessment of who I was as a man. Before you judge me too harshly, I blame evolution for this. Feeling actualized as a sexual being is a factor in self-esteem; this is just one of the idiosyncrasies of being human. While it certainly applies to women, for men, the relationship between self-esteem and sexuality is especially strong. It’s been shown that this is just one of the (many) complications that comes of being born with a penis. Put another way, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, your manhood and your, um, manhood are indelibly tied together.
Evolution and psychology notwithstanding, speaking purely personally, my sexual identity was part of my overall identity. And then one day it was gone. It may have been a gradual decline that I didn’t notice, but it felt like stepping off a cliff. I simply woke up one morning and didn’t want to have sex. And, I don’t just mean with my girlfriend (which I could have written off as relationship boredom), but with anyone.
Sex was no longer interesting to me. Not just uninteresting, but also unappealing to the point of revulsion. The thought of a woman touching me made my skin crawl. If you’ve experienced low sex drive, you can relate; all of the people I’ve spoken to in my interviews for the book reported a similar feeling. (If you’ve never experienced it, the best way I can describe to you is the feeling of being really full to the point of nauseous, and then someone you care about trying to feed a home cooked meal…and then getting really upset when you didn’t want to eat it.) These subjects also discussed the feelings of shame and guilt associated with low sex drive—shame for not wanting sex, guilt for the way it made their partners feel.
At first, I was bothered by the void—the hole left by not wanting sex, and all the extra time on my hands from not having it. For a time, I wanted to want sex. Eventually, it stopped bothering me. Then, in moments of reflection, in the early hours of the night when I was pretending to be asleep in an effort to avoid another conversation about it, I was bothered about not being bothered about it. And then that stopped too. From that point on, I watched with a strange sort of detached bemusement as the ramifications of my condition tainted piece after piece of my life.
Needless to say, my relationship was one of the casualties. After nearly eight months of incredibly infrequent and probably lackluster sex, my lady and I called it quits. A dearth of sex is dangerous in any relationship, is it leads to lack of intimacy and a widening fissure between partners. Some relationships can survive that; mine couldn’t. She’d had enough of feeling unwanted and unattractive, and I’d had enough of feeling guilty about making her feel that way.
This happens more than you can imagine, and as covered in a 2009 piece in a New York Times blog, psychologists see over and over that when stops in a relationship, the couple begins to struggle with lessening intimacy—and the longer that relationship goes without sex, the harder it is to reclaim intimacy. For many couples, that starts with testosterone. For this reason and a host others, low T can cause depression, lack of ambition, and even thoughts of suicide. It didn’t go quite that far for me, thankfully, but it certainly wasn’t fun.
Here’s the truly scary part: I didn’t actually know I had low testosterone. I had no idea what was causing the issue; all I knew is that I wasn’t who I had been. I had lost not just one part of myself, but several—because the fact is, sex drive is strongly tied to all drive. When it drops, so too does your ambition, and your motivation to achieve that ambition. For me, it felt like I’d become a different person, a lesser man. Without exaggeration, ever part of my life was negatively affected: my relationships, my sleep patterns, and my physique—even my productivity and business were all hampered.
Eventually, I spoke to a friend of mine who suggested I get my testosterone levels checked. They were low, in a relative since—certainly lower than they should have been at my age. I measured less than 400ng/dl. This is right about the point where research suggests many men begin to experience to symptoms of low T. Unfortunately, that still fell within the range of “normal”, because that range of is so vast. Depending on which lab you get tested at, “average” can be from as low as 260ng/dl (nanograms per decaliter) to as high as 1080ng/dl). Meaning, that if you’re at around 800ng/dl and your testosterone falls by 50%, you’re still within the “reference range”, and therefore, not be considered low. (As a related aside, this is something I humbly suggest needs to addressed by the medical community.)
The problem for me personally became that I was in a strange grey area—I was low enough to be experiencing a ton of symptoms, but too high to qualify for treatment of any kind. My doctor advised me that while my levels were low for my age, they were still technically normal, and I just had to deal with it. Very rarely has stupider medical advice been given. I had to take matters into my own hands, and had two choices: I could either simply procure illegal testosterone and start injecting it, or figure out a way to increase T levels naturally. Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t briefly consider the former, in the end I’m happy to report I went the latter.
Over the course of the next several months, I dove into all the literature I could find and started making a lifestyle overhaul. My sex drive returned—rather rapidly. In 6 weeks I felt different. After 12, I got tested again, and my testosterone levels had literally doubled—doubled! I was productive again. I started dating. I reclaimed my physique and liked the way I looked again. I felt ALIVE again.
As you might imagine, I was struck by how well it worked, and how simple it had been, once I knew what to do. And I decided that eventually, I would write a book about it—because I felt that men truly needed it. In the process of my research, for both my personal use and the book, I came to realize just how much men need it, how epidemic this problem really is.
The goal of Man 2.0 has been, from the outset, to not only provide a solution to a huge problem, but also to create awareness of it. This article will certainly create some awareness, but I’d like to use this platform to provide a solution. While I can’t be as starkly informative as I am in the book, below you’ll find three high-yield tips to naturally increase your testosterone and improve your sex drive.
How to Increase Testosterone Naturally
Reduce Carbohydrate Intake
More and more, it’s becoming obvious that high carbohydrate diets are a pretty bad idea for the majority of people. In this specific case, as usual, the reason is insulin; although insulin is produced when you eat any food, the insulin response to carbohydrates is significantly greater than the response to fat or protein. Insulin affects your testosterone and sex drive in a number of ways.
Firstly, production of insulin halts secretion of growth hormone, which potentiates testosterone production. Secondly, chronically elevated insulin levels have been show to increase the likelihood of erectile dysfunction.
Limiting carbohydrate in helps to reduce the production of insulin, and help avoid the sexual issue that can arise.
Reduce Your Body Fat
As if your really needed another reason to bring your body fat down—because, you know, diabetes and heart disease just aren’t scary enough—men with lower levels of body fat are consistently tested with higher testosterone. Conversely, men with higher body fat have greater levels of estrogen. This piece mentions the relationship between testosterone and body fat, but suffice it to say that getting leaner will improve your T levels and sex drive. But, since you’re going to follow the first tip and lower carbs, losing body fat won’t be an issue, so you’re set.
Increase Dietary Fat Intake—Especially Saturated Fat
For years, people have been afraid of fat and cholesterol, despite the fact that avoiding them seems not to be slowing the growth of the obesity epidemic at all. Gripes aside, fat isn’t just “not that bad” for you—it’s far healthier than you’ve been led to believe.
Further is study is needed to confirm this, but seems likely that the “health issues” that are sometimes thought to be correlated with high dietary fat and cholesterol intake are probably more do to other lifestyle factors. For example, despite the fact that high fat intake has been linked to heart disease, the recent popularity of the Paleo diet has produced a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence that people on higher fat, lower carbohydrate diets do not seem to experience a radical increase in cholesterol—particularly when this diet is combined with exercise.
In fact, often times cholesterol levels go down. Most importantly, the ratio of HDL:LDL tends to improve, as do other markers of health, like total triglyceride count, which decreases.
More importantly, concern about “high cholesterol” is generally overblown, because cholesterol is largely misunderstood. Something to consider is that cholesterol is actually a pre-cursor to all sex hormones—including testosterone. And so, for men looking to increase testosterone and sex drive, avoiding dietary fat and cholesterol is a bad idea. In fact, it’s been suggested that increasing cholesterol increases testosterone.
Wanna safeguard your sex drive? Bring on the bacon!
As I mentioned above, low sex drive is a harrowingly trying problem to deal with, and it’s more common than you think, because low Testosterone is truly epidemic. And while deceased libido is, for most men, an unavoidable consequence of low testosterone, what’s not inevitable is the drop in T.
The first thing you need to do: get tested. Even if you’re not currently experiencing any of the symptoms, you should at least know your T levels so that you have a baseline of comparison for the future. From there, follow the above tips to start taking control of your body and creating a hormonal environment thatwill facilitate a healthy, well-balanced life—one that includes sex.
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